A hearing for London Luton Airport’s expansion has begun.

The government’s planning inspectorate held a preliminary meeting to discuss the procedure for the London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) application for an order granting development consent (DCO) on August 10.

This DCO for the expansion project would enable the borough council’s airport company to increase the capacity to 32 million passengers per annum, which would include building a second terminal, as well as making best use of the single runway by adding extra taxiing capacity and aprons to park more aircraft.

The hearing is a stepping stone towards a planning inspectorate examination of a DCO to consider an application by LLAL, trading as Luton Rising.

Luton Rising describes the airport as “a linchpin of the regional economy, contributing over £1.1bn a year to the Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire economies, while supporting 27,000 jobs nationally”.

The company said on its website: “Our airport is the most socially impactful in the UK. Since 1998, we have contributed £257m to support front line services and £155m to help local community organisations and charities.

“The proposed expansion to 32m passengers a year will generate thousands of extra jobs, and more than a £1 billion increase in economic activity in Luton and the neighbouring counties.”

It wants to extend the current terminal building initially to raise the capacity to 21.5m passengers annually.

This would include new self-service kiosks for check-in, more seating in the departure lounge and new hold baggage X-ray machines.

A second terminal building would be part of the next phase of development, although Luton Rising is aware it could be at least a decade before it opens.

Pressure groups and environmental organisations will be among those represented at the hearing, with some strongly objecting to airport expansion.

Approval would mean the loss of a significant proportion of Wigmore Park in Luton, although any lost open space and habitats would be replaced with new scrub, meadow and woodland.

Luton Rising aims to provide a 10 per cent larger replacement for the missing area, but opponents say that much of their community park is irreplaceable and that it would take years for an alternative site to mature into anything like the same ecological attraction.

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